Astro Aqua Kitty is the direct sequel to the enjoyable arcade shoot-em-up Aqua Kitty UDX, featuring immediately familiar gameplay and mechanics, albeit presented in a far more ambitious package. Where Aqua Kitty UDX had your feisty felines battling underwater creatures in small, looping spaces, Astro Aqua Kitty breaks through its predecessor’s boundaries to feature fully-formed levels with branching paths, missions, and a few secrets. As a result, the gameplay feels both grander and yet oddly diluted at the same time.

When you start the game, you’re given the choice of eight different characters to choose from: four pilots and four engineers. Each character offers a slight variation on your core stats, such as agility and firepower, though we found the differences in abilities to be fairly minimal, so whichever combination of pilot and engineer you decide to go for, you’re good to go. At this stage, you can also choose the game’s overall difficulty — which factors in the enemies’ health and rate of fire — with an additional option to activate permadeath. We’d personally recommend choosing hard mode with permadeath disabled for the most enjoyable experience.

The gameplay itself remains similar to Aqua Kitty UDX: you have a main weapon and a sub weapon, with the ability to swap out either for upgraded guns via the game’s inventory and shop system. As you defeat enemies, you’re granted experience points and gems, both of which can be utilised to gain new abilities and items. The rate at which your experience accumulates is a bit too slow for our liking, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself stuck with the same loadout for a while. On the flip side, you’ll find most weapons to be more than adequate against your enemies, so it won’t be long until you settle on a couple of favourites.

The size of Astro Aqua Kitty’s levels is both a blessing and a curse. Each level feels even more sprawling than the last, and despite the fact that there are multiple save points dotted around each environment, the ‘just one more go’ mentality that made Aqua Kitty UDX so replayable is largely absent here. The action is consistently engaging, but after a while, repetition starts to set in, and we found ourselves pining for the leaner, more action packed gameplay from the first game. Boss battles are scattered around the game in the form of larger, more aggressive enemies, and these certainly help inject a bit of variety, which is greatly appreciated.

Visually, Astro Aqua Kitty inherits the same 2D aesthetic from UDX, but overall the characters and environments are far more impressive here. As you navigate the underwater caverns, the lighting naturally goes darker the deeper you go, with enemies displaying an almost neon-like glow. The music, on the other hand, doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the experience; we’d much prefer more thoughtful ambient tracks as opposed to the upbeat dance music on rotation here.

Overall, we’d say that if you enjoyed Aqua Kitty UDX, then you’re likely going to enjoy Astro Aqua Kitty, too. Heck, even if you didn’t play the first game, we’d still recommend checking this one out. It’s a solid shoot-em-up, and while it doesn’t feel as immediately engaging or replayable as its predecessor, it’s nevertheless a fun ride throughout.